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Story Retellings in Medicine Lodge

When the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty Association (MLPTA) submitted a proposal for a Humanitie´╗┐s For All grant, the plan was to turn an old welcome center into a new visitor center with a small outdoor historical exhibit. But over the years, the project has exploded in scope and ambition, taking its creators in directions they never imagined.

“We learned quickly that we had a lot to learn,” says Debra Kolb, project director. “Our vision had a lot of growing to do, and we had a lot of growing to do.”

The Memorial Timeline will feature the stories of Indigenous people and settlers in Barber County. In the years since the project began, the planning committee has realized the need for more substantial Indigenous inclusion and participation in the stories being told. In addition to working under the guidance of tribal members, including Darrin Cisco of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, the MLPTA organized a summit in June of 2022 to meet with delegates from each of the five nations involved in the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867: the Kiowa, Comanche, Kiowa-Apache, Arapaho, and Southern Cheyenne nations. Tribal members in attendance at the summit included linguists, youth leaders, and elders, who contributed new perspectives on the memorial timeline, the Medicine Lodge Intertribal Powwow, and the Peace Treaty Pageant.

With an emphasis on honoring many different perspectives, the memorial timeline aims to preserve the oral history that has played such a formative role in the community. It will feature tales passed down in local families, stories that haven’t made it into history books, and refreshed interpretations of familiar history.

But the visitor center and timeline are no longer the sole focus of the project. Now, the MLPTA is at work on a more extensive outdoor museum trail. “We’ve got a larger [vision] where every story on the timeline will have a stop with multiple signs,” explains Joscelyn Nittler, content director. Currently, a trail stop is being developed on the powwow grounds at the Memorial Peace Park, with future plans for a stop on Main Street. The planning committee has also set its sights on developing historical signage along the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway.

While the project is still underway, the Memorial Timeline is expected to be completed in time for the Medicine Lodge Intertribal Powwow, Sept. 22-24 at the Memorial Peace Park.

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